4000 career victories for trainer Jamie Ness (Maryland Jockey Club)
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
LAUREL, Md.— Morris Kernan Jr., Yo Berbs and Jagger Inc.’s 3-year-old filly Sing Scat led from start to finish and pulled away late to score her second straight win and give trainer and co-owner Jamie Ness his 4,000th career victory in Sunday’s opener at Laurel Park.
With main stable rider Jaime Rodriguez aboard, 2-1 favorite Sing Scat ($6) was hustled to the front from the gate in the 1 1/16-mile claiming event for fillies and mares 3 and up which had never won two races and never looked back, leading comfortably throughout and coming home under a hand ride in 1:44.86 over an Exceller turf course rated good.
The victory was the 27th in the month of July for Ness and extended his win streak to 17 calendar days between Laurel, Delaware Park and Parx that dates back to June 30. It was also the second career milestone Ness has reached at Laurel, earning his 2,000th win with Caylee’s Song on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013.
“Luckily, we weren’t [waiting] for very long. It came pretty fast,” Ness said. “It’s kind of a longevity milestone, I guess you’d call it. We’ve been doing this a long time. It means you’ve been doing it a while. I remember being right here for 2,000. Seems like it was yesterday.”
Ness becomes the 16th trainer to reach 4,000 wins in North America and ranks 13th among active trainers behind Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen’s record 10,199 and counting. The 48-year-old Ness won No. 1,000 Sept. 23, 2010 at Presque Isle Downs with Afleet Ashley, and picked up No. 3,000 Feb. 18, 2020 at Parx with Late Breaking News.
“The last thousand went pretty quick,” Ness said. “The first win was tough. I went like oh-for-30 or 40 and was like, ‘This is hard.’ I just wanted to win one race when I first started. I had bad horses and didn’t do a good job with the ones I had, so it took a while before I won a race.”
After graduating from South Dakota State University, the Heron, S.D. native took a job in the media relations office at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, where he won his first race with his 33rd starter, Blue Rocket, Aug. 21, 1999. Ness began training full-time in 2004 and over the years has expanded his operation to nearly 200 horses currently including 140 in training.
“I’m good at horse training but I’m terrible with all the bookwork and that kind of stuff,” Ness said. “There’s a lot more than just showing up in the winner’s circle. There’s a lot behind the scenes. They say it takes a village. It takes a community when you run a big stable like I’ve got.”
Ness has had 300 or more winners in a season four times, leading the nation with 395 in 2012 and ranking in the top six nine times since 2008, including second in 2010 and 2011 and third each of the past two years. He is coming off a 2022 campaign that saw him win 326 races and a career-high $10.3 million in purses.
Entering Sunday Ness had 168 wins and more than $5.8 million in purses from 688 starters in 2023, pushing his lifetime bankroll over $79.5 million. He owns four career graded-stakes wins, two coming this year with Repo Rocks in Aqueduct’s Toboggan (G3) and Belmont Park’s Westchester (G3).
“We’ve been steady, that’s the thing. We’ve been consistent and steady for the last little while,” Ness said. “[Wins are] all the same to me. Obviously, the graded-stakes are important but they all feel almost the same. This is my job and I approach it that way. It’s on to the next. If you keep humble and keep on to the next, you might get another thousand down the line here.”
Ness has dominated the trainer standings at Delaware and Parx in recent years and has also won six meet titles in Maryland, including Laurel’s winter stand to open 2023. Others have come at Laurel fall in 2011 and 2012 and historic Pimlico Race Course’s 2012, 2015 and 2019 spring stands.
Heading into Sunday Ness was the leading trainer at both Delaware Park and Parx and tied 16-16 with Brittany Russell in Laurel’s summer meet standings after Starship Laoban ($4.80) gave Ness No. 4,001 in Sunday’s third race, also with Rodriguez up.
“I’m fortunate. [This] is something I would do even if I didn’t get paid,” Ness said. “It’s my hobby, it’s my passion and it’s my job. Very few get to do that, so I feel blessed to be able in that position.”